Play Safe in the Heat by Dr. Lindsay Di Stefano

by MaryAnne Gucciardi August 08, 2011 2 min read

Five high school athletes have died in the past week from a heat-related illness after being physically active in the heat. As temperatures rise, it is critical that athletes of all ages follow some basic steps to stay safe in the heat!

  1. Drink plenty of fluids
    1. Water is key! Your urine should be a light to clear color (like lemonade). You are probably dehydrated if it is dark yellow (like apple juice). Being dehydrated can increase your risk for becoming too hot and may impair your performance.
    2. Replacing electrolytes through sports drinks, such as Gatorade and Powerade, is smart if you are exercising for a long time.
  2. Exercise smart
    1. Early or late in the day is better when temperatures are lower.
    2. Don't expect to break your personal records in the heat.
    3. If possible, choose to exercise in the shade or indoors when it is really hot out.
    4. Acclimatize yourself to exercising in the heat. If you know you'll be playing a tournament or if you are beginning practices for a fall sport over the hot summer months start gradually working out in the heat. Keep your workouts short and make sure you have plenty of access to water. Give yourself at least a week to get used to the heat but always still listen to your body!
  3. Prepare
    1. Carry an insulated lunch pail with a face cloth, soaked in water and then frozen. (a tip from Yale '84 soccer player Susan Diaz Killenberg) You can wrap this around your neck, drape over your head or back, or cool your face with it.
    2. Wear wicking garments that help your stay cool.
    3. Wear light colors because they reflect, rather than absorb light.
    4. Bring and extra pair of soccer socks and slips so you can change them between games.
  4. Recognize the red flags
    1. Confusion or disorientation – this is a dangerous symptom of heat illness because people may not realize they have a problem!
    2. Other signs or symptoms: cramps, nausea, thirst, dizziness, headache, irritability, vomiting, fatigue.
    3. Body temperature over 104°F. Don't trust an oral temperature reading – it may underestimate.
    4. If you suspect heat stroke, putting the person in cold water or aggressively putting cold water over them is the quickest and safest way to lower body temperature. This treatment leads to a 100% survival rate when performed early. After cooling, transport the individual to the nearest medical facility immediately.


NATA Position Statement
Korey Stringer Institute

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